This Was Burlesque: THE SULTAN’S DAUGHTER (Monogram 1943)


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Monogram Pictures is mostly remembered today as the home of Bela Lugosi chillers that weren’t too chilling, Charlie Chan mysteries that weren’t so mysterious, and the Bowery Boys peculiar brand of buffoonery. The Poverty Row studio seemed to throw virtually anything at the wall hoping it would stick in order to compete with the major studios of the 1940’s (MGM, 20th Century-Fox, etc). They signed burlesque stripper Ann Corio to a contract, fresh off her appearance in 1941’s SWAMP WOMAN (released by PRC, a studio even more poverty-stricken than Monogram) and concocted a farce titled THE SULTAN’S DAUGHTER, which in spite of itself manages to entertain because of the talented comic actors in the cast.

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The opening says it all, as we gaze upon a book titled “Phony Phables”. The Sultan of Araban (Charles Butterworth ) has a daughter named Patra (Miss Corio), who owns all the country’s oil fields. Nazi agents…

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Hallmark Review: Flower Shop Mystery: Snipped in the Bud (2016, dir. Bradley Walsh)


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Sure looks like the same place from On the Twelfth Day of Christmas and Murder, She Baked: A Plum Pudding Mystery. It may be the same place as in those movies, but I’m not sure. This is North Bay, Ontario you are looking, which is where the film was shot. That’s a step up here since last time they put the title card over a shot of Littleton, New Hampshire.

It looks like these Flower Shop Mystery movies are a thing now. I don’t mind. Especially not when they are written by good old Gary Goldstein. It seems you can always count on a Hallmark film written by Goldstein to have something odd in it. I would love to know if these things are in his scripts and if he does it on purpose, or if it is just a strange coincidence. Regardless, this one is no exception.

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The Chicago Cafe has still been changed to the Chicago Bar. Although, you will see Marco (Brennan Elliott) walk around the kitchen of his “bar” carrying groceries. Not sure what that was about. Art On Main has also still been changed to Bloomers Flower Shop via a tarp. It looks fine on her shop, but I don’t get why they bothered with his place. Also, if you go to Google Maps, then you’ll find a Asian character next to the word “Chicago”. I’m guessing that was photoshopped out or the place changed between July 2015 and when they made this. That’s possible seeing as it changed drastically between September 2013 and 2015 according to photos on Google Maps. I lean towards photoshopping because of a scene later, but let’s move on and talk about the movie now.

The movie begins and we get three for the price of one with this screenshot.

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First, Abby Knight (Brooke Shields) has been sent money anonymously to deliver black roses to someone. Second, Abby’s assistant Nikki Bender (Kate Drummond) was just reminded she truly works for a nutcase. Turns out Abby already compared the handwriting to signatures on old receipts. She also said she couldn’t get DNA off the envelope flap because it is self-adhesive. That is Nikki’s reaction. That was me when I saw a shot later in this film. Finally, they put the two prominent actors from Degrassi in the same cast listing. But that’s not all!

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That’s right! Someone involved with these movies realized they accidentally called it Mills College in the first film. They make sure you know they fixed it. Yes, the plot does revolve around the college, but they show that name a lot. They also have a scene where the news gets the name of the flower shop wrong and they repeatedly yell at the screen to correct them.

We find out that the black roses are for a Bruce Barnes (Daniel Kash) who happens to be the pre-law professor for Abby’s daughter Sydney (Celeste Desjardins). Abby is apparently terrified of him. We also find out that Kenny (Ricardo Hoyos), her TA, is the only thing keeping her in the class. It is pretty cool when your TA is Zig Novak from Degrassi.

Marco now comes in to remind us he still exists. Normally that would be me trying to be funny and cynical, but he seriously only gets in a couple of words before Abby is off and running to the college. Abby runs into an old lawyer friend of hers who teaches at the college. I think this screenshot sums up how much she likes him.

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They had some bad experiences in the past. Abby does bring up that up that he “dated and dumped half of [her] friends.” However, I don’t think it helps when one of your answers to that is “I showed every one of your girlfriends a great time, and I would’ve shown you the same, if you’d ever given me a chance.” So, it was all but her that he went out with rather than just half, and he would have shown all of them a “great time.” Good work, pal! No seriously, good job! You made sure no one will care when you are dead. A case they both once worked on that he won is also brought up here to give us information for the ending of the movie.

After talking with her daughter so Sydney can setup a red herring by telling us the guy getting the black roses has famous black pencils, she goes to his office. But first, we have to pass by his secretary to introduce her character and find out there is some obvious friction between her and the professor.

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He likes black pencils, is being delivered black roses, and has a black secretary. I totally didn’t spot that while watching the movie. Then we meet Bruce. She winds up calling him a “tool” to Marco, but this site isn’t Hallmark. His character is an asshole. Plain and simple. That’s all you really need to know about him. This is just another setup for Abby to become the prime suspect in the murder that is about to happen. This happens because Abby doesn’t put up with assholes. She decides to turn around outside and go right back to his office after having initially left the building.

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Actor Jeff Teravainen has part of a black pencil glued to his chest and isn’t moving. He’s dead. That’s when Abby runs out to get help and I realize just how obvious this film tried to make who the killer is so I’m skipping this part. All you need to know is that no one but Abby was in their with the body. I love how they have Brooke refer to the black roses as “theme roses.” It’s too bad he doesn’t ask what theme. This whole bit is the equivalent of an old murder mystery movie where the detective says the killer is somewhere in this room so nobody leave the house.

She returns to the shop where Marco and Abby have a little back and forth about Abby keeping a “low profile.” Then we find out that this must be the official news station of Hallmark movies…

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seeing as it’s the same one from A Christmas Detour.

A Christmas Detour (2015, dir. Ron Oliver)

A Christmas Detour (2015, dir. Ron Oliver)

Then we meet Connor McKay of the Illinois-Eagle Times.

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Pat Mastroianni can call himself whatever he wants in this movie, but he will always be…

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in my heart. By the way, between him and actor Ricardo Koyos, that means we have an actor from the first episode of Degrassi-discounting The Kids of Degrassi Street-and an actor from the most recent episode of Degrassi in the same movie together. That’s awesome! Sadly, he’s barely in the movie. Maybe he’ll be a recurring character seeing as the press is bound to keep popping up in these movies.

Now it’s time to vent to Beau Bridges, which also reminds us he exists because he’s gone as fast as Marco. This is followed by another fly over of the actual place they filmed this in. I can’t tell you how refreshing this is after that last few Hallmark movies I watched that pieced together stock footage from all over the place. Along those lines, I give them credit for this too.

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Often when a Hallmark movie shows a newspaper or an article online then they just use someone else’s writing. Sometimes they slightly modify it. The first film did it. That’s probably here as well, but they made sure to put this wrapping on it so that I wasn’t able to notice. Good work!

The detective comes in to remind us that Abby had knocked over pencils in the professor’s office earlier so that her fingerprints would be on the one that killed the guy. With his lines done, actor Paulino Nunes makes his exit. He has to get back to beating out other actors for having the highest number of acting credits in a lifetime. He’s a busy man.

Now the suspects board comes out.

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I hope you like that board because you will be looking at it and listening to a lot of conversations around it during this movie. Explaining all the info dropped at this board would be really boring. So, let’s laugh at this lady’s shocked look on her face when she sees Abby, who is now famous as a potential murderer, walking on the street.

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On the upside for Abby, business has picked up since she has become a prime suspect in a murder. People all want those black “revenge roses”. Nikki says they are “for bad occasions. Arguments, divorces, breakups, just to say ‘I hate you’.” That part is immediately followed by a scene with the detective where Brooke Shields does this after venting about the dead man, which included calling him a “womanizer”.

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After Marco and Abby talk to each other, they go on a stakeout like they did in the first movie. This time it’s of the dead guy’s funeral on the ground floor of a building with windows. Marco heads in to scope things out while Abby uses her binoculars. Joey Jeremiah stops by her car to remind us he is still in the movie before leaving again. In here Marco gets in a conversation with the dead guy’s wife so I can be proven wrong part way through writing this review. Turns out it’s “Chicago Bar and Grill”. He even calls it a restaurant. This only leaves me more confused. We can clearly see neighboring businesses have their real names. Well, they did seem to remove where it says “Lingerie & Luxuries” on Cintra May’s, which is next door to his Bar and Grill, but still. I guess they thought it would constitute official endorsement, or maybe that’s what it was called in the book. I don’t know.

We are also reminded that Barnes is a jerk to his secretary. Kenny also shows up to the funeral to again remind us he is in the movie still. I really think this movie wanted you to constantly think that it had to be one of the actors from Degrassi since they are kind of on the periphery of all the action. Heck, Joey is actually seen in the background looking in Abby’s flower shop in the dark at one point. We also learn that Kenny was real friendly with a guy who was involved in a case awhile back.

Board time!

Abby goes and talks with Kenny who mentions some internship that the dead guy supposedly secured him. He also mentions that the dead guy had just split up with a woman so that we suspect the secretary.

This is when Kelly Taylor popped up to tell me it’s time to dance.

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I will not! I looked through a bunch of episodes of Beverly Hills, 90210 to find an onscreen writing credit for Gary Goldstein to include here, but failed. I’m not happy. Help me, Beau!

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Yeah, but I’m not supposed to eat ice cream anymore. However, we’ve now reached the point where you have the setup of this film. I could take you through the rest, but it would be me regurgitating their mulling over the board and getting information to add to that board by talking to people. It’s as boring as it sounds.

My final thoughts are these. They dropped the extra guy who was in the first one. That’s a plus. Another plus is that they didn’t have to do any setup so we could cut right to Marco and Abby solving a mystery. However, I swear I remember more snappy screwball comedy back and forth between them in the first film, and it just isn’t here. Luckily, we do have another one of these films coming in June. Gary seemed to try to improve between the first and second, so maybe the third one will bring in more of that kind of dialogue. Also, the board thing really gets annoying. It didn’t help to organize the facts, but seemed to just confuse me more. Maybe that was the intention. Regardless, I can’t recommend this one even if it did have Pat Mastroianni in it who I really hope will be playing a recurring character.

Now, if you want to know who did it, then scroll past this picture of another fine moment of Joey Jeremiah from Degrassi Junior High. This was back when he was probably small enough that Brooke Shields could have easily broken him in half. He’s really tiny in that first episode.

There are no songs to include this time so you can stop here.

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Okay, here you go. Kenny did it. He had worked on a case with the guy who was killed. A case Abby was on back when she worked as a lawyer. He wasn’t given the credit for his work. Kenny wanted to get away from his father. His father bribed the dead guy to not give Kenny a clerkship far away since he wanted him to take over the family business. Kenny saw an opportunity to kill the professor and blame it on Abby. He made sure to do it before the dead professor sent out any of the letters about the job. That way he could arrange to get it himself. Thus, he would escape his father.

Not too satisfying of an ending. Not too satisfying of a mystery. Not too satisfying of a movie. Skip this one.

Film Review: Keanu (dir by Peter Atencio)


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“KEANU!”

Meow!

“ARE YOU OKAY, KEANU!?”

Meow!

Greetings, fellow lovers of movies and cats!  So, Jeff and I just saw the new comedy, Keanu.  It’s the first film to star the quickly-becoming legendary comedy team of Keegan-Michael Key and Jordan Peele and it’s full of the type of humor that made their Comedy Central show, Key & Peele, such a success.  Perhaps even more importantly, the film stars an amazingly adorable little kitten!

You’ve seen the trailer, right?  You know how, when Peele first holds up his new kitten, Key immediately starts laughing and says, “Oh my God, that’s the cutest cat I’ve ever seen in my life!?”  Well, he’s not lying.  While I don’t think any cat is cuter than that one that I live with, Keanu the Kitten is definitely the cutest cat that I’ve ever seen in a movie.

Add to that, this kitten can act!  When this kitten stares, you truly believe that he’s listening to the dialogue being exchanged.  When he runs through a gunfight while bullets fly around him, you truly believe that this kitten is running for his life and you breathe a sigh of relief when he survives.  When he meows, your heart melts with each squeaky sound.  This is one amazingly talented kitten!

And it’s not surprising the everyone in the film wants Keanu.  The 17th Street Blips (led by Method Man and created as the result of a merger between the Bloods and the Crips) not only want Keanu but they want to rename him New Jack as well.  Their rival (played by Luis Guzman) wants Keanu and plans to rename him Eglesias.  Two mysterious assassins — the much feared, very sadistic, and always silent Allentown Boys — want Keanu too.  Since they don’t speak, they never say what they want to name him but it would probably be something cool.

And what really makes the film work is that none of them have a reason for wanting Keanu beyond the fact that he is literally the cutest kitten in Los Angeles.  This film is full of dangerous and violent people but all of them love this cat.  Everyone wants Keanu.

Well, I should say that everyone wants Keanu except for Anna Faris, who plays herself.  All Anna Faris wants is a chance to do the latest designer drug, Holy Shit.  (“It’s like smoking crack with God!” Method Man explains.)  It’s probably a good thing that Anna Faris doesn’t want a cat because, as this movie reveals, she also has a potentially dangerous fascination with sharp swords and playing truth or dare.

Of course, Keanu technically belongs to Rell (Jordan Peele).  They say that cats chose their owners and Keanu definitely does that when he shows up outside of Rell’s house.  Rell has just been dumped by his girlfriend and existence has no meaning for him.  But once Keanu shows up, Rell again learns to embrace life.  He spends two weeks taking pictures of Keanu reenacting scenes from classic movies.  But when the 17th Street Blips break into his house, mistakenly thinking that Rell has a supply of Holy Shit, they take Keanu for themselves.

Rell and his cousin Clarence (Keegan-Michael Key) team up to track down and retrieve Keanu from the Blips but there’s a problem.  Rell may brag about growing up in New York and Clarence may have stories about his childhood on the streets of Detroit but both of them are painfully out-of-place in the violent world of Blips and Anna Faris.  (Clarence is obsessed with George Michael while Rell “sounds like John Ritter all the time.”)  Fortunately, Rell and Clarence happen to look exactly like the Allentown Boys.  Method Man makes a deal with them.  If Rell and Clarence — who are now going by the names TekTonic and Sharktank — train the Blips then he will give them Keanu.

(Method Man’s character is actually named Cheddar.  Jeff just pointed out to me that Method Man previously played a character named Cheese on The Wire.)

While Rell struggles to fit in with the Blips, the nominally more straight-laced Clarence (who, unlike Rell, doesn’t even smoke weed) is soon having the time of his life.  It turns out that Clarence specializes in corporate team building and he’s excited to introduce these techniques to Blips.  (During one shootout, Clarence proudly announces, “They’re communicating!”)

Admittedly, Keanu is an uneven film.  It’s essentially a collection skits and some of them are funnier than others.  However, Key and Peele both bring so much commitment to bringing this insane story to life that they literally carry the audience over the occasional rough spot.  It may not be perfect but it’s a film that announces that, whether on TV or in the movies, Key & Peele are a comedic force to be reckoned with.

Plus, that kitten is so damn cute!

(And, in case you were wondering, Keanu Reeves does make an appearance of sorts.)

This film is 90 minutes of laughter and that’s certainly something that we all need right now!  See Keanu!

(Since you’ve probably already seen the trailer for Keanuhere it is, if you haven’t — let’s close this review with some exclusive audition footage.)

“Navy Seals Vs. Zombies” — Because Somebody Had To Review It


Trash Film Guru

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Who are we kidding? You know damn well what the score is going into any flick called Navy Seals Vs. Zombies — it’s going to be a low-budget action/horror hybrid with as smattering of D-list “stars,” crummy effects, atrocious dialogue, poorly-staged fight sequences, risible acting, and no real point to it.

And to be sure, director Stanton Barrett’s straight-to-video 2015 might-as-well-be-an-Asylum-film has all of that —errrmmmm — going for it. But somehow it manages to pull off the seemingly- impossible task of being both exactly what you expect it to be, as well as something far worse.

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When I saw this one added to the horror movie queue on Netflix recently (it’s also available on Blu-ray and DVD from what I gather but, as I’m sure it goes without saying already, you needn’t bother) under its alternate title of Navy Seals : Battle For New Orleans (although it was filmed…

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